Poor old Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge: she's doing the best she bloody can, she's saying all the right things, doing all the right things - and now she gets a complete pasting from Britain's leading novelist Hilary Mantel.
Mantel has taken Kate to task for being just a plastic princess. Mantel paints Kate as this vacuous show-pony who hasn't got a single thought in that pretty little head of hers beyond the next piece of clothing that she'll be wearing to the next deliciously gilded party.
Well it's a view. But it's a pretty harsh one.
Kate faces the same problem that every other royal faces when they're out in public. The very moment that they step out of line, say something a little risque or a little daring, then get absolutely pilloried.
So for the past decade, Kate has been absolutely squeaky clean. Hasn't done anything wrong. Hasn't been controversial. Has smiled in all the right places, said all the right things. Definitely has never spoken to a journalist. This, of course, has not made for much newspaper copy, or anything for the magazines to dissect beyond Kate's taste in clothes. None of us know "the real" Kate - which leaves her open to people like Mantel who can tuck on in and say that she's got no "personality".
Rest assured that if Kate were to start expressing a little more of character - and I don't doubt it's there, in full - then she will start offending minority groups the world over. She'll come out with some merry little quip, or say something just that little bit punchy, and the next moment you will - I absolutely promise you - get a ton of people whining away about how "offensive" she is.
Basically if you're a royal and you're saying anything of even the remotest interest to all the hundreds of punters that you're seeing every day, then one way or the other, you're going to put your foot in it. As the Duke of Edinburgh does on a regular occasion.
It's difficult to know what Mantel is looking for when she demands a bit more "character" in Kate. She wishes that Kate would be a bit more like Princess Diana, "whose human awkwardness and emotional incontinence showed in her every gesture..." Well yes, Hilary - but let's face it, Diana may have had this wonderful human awkwardness, but she had to go through a hellish couple of decades to get there, what with her parents' acrimonious split up, followed by her own even more vitriolic split with Prince Charles. Is this the sort of thing that we wish on Kate to perk her up and give her a bit more "character"?
There are a few royals who would be deemed to have "personality". These are, without exception, the odd-balls and the liabilities who are prone to "gaffes". In no particular order, they would include the aforementioned Duke of Edinburgh; Prince Harry; the bluntly spoken, bordering on rude, Priiness Royal; and the Duchess of York, who may have "character" by the bundle, but who just comes across as slightly potty.
Kate, we hope, is in the Royal Family for the long haul, and so there will be years - decades and decades - for her personality to shine through. But, here's a tip for her from an old Sun Royal Reporter: Kate, you should not even think about letting the world see your true character. You should not start making perky little quips which will leapt on and then devoured by the press mob.
At the moment, she is a global superstar, the biggest royal by far; and when she has her baby, she's going to get even bigger.
But like our Hollywood stars, we think that we want to know their "characters", but all ever really get is the mere froth on the top of the Cappuccino. And that's all to the good - because the reality of their characters will never match up to our expectations.
It's the same with Kate, this future Princess, this future Queen. The very moment that she starts to reveal a bit more of her "character", she will start to lose her glamour and her mystique - and then, doubtless, you'll have Hilary Mantel giving her yet another hatchet job for being unkind to some wee pressure group that's getting itself all hot under the collar.
Kate did, of course, get exactly what she wished for. She wanted to be a Princess and, for years now, she's known all about the publicity pressures that come with that. Frankly, life in her gilded cage sounds like hell on earth. But it must be slightly galling for Kate to have this kick in the teeth from Mantel; Mantel probably thinks that it'll be yet more proof of Kate's lack of character that the Duchess will never dignify her acidic attack with a response.
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